Red Sox

Red Sox need effective Carson Smith, Brian Johnson as reinforcements

Red Sox need effective Carson Smith, Brian Johnson as reinforcements

NEW YORK — It won’t be as dramatic as the Millennium Falcon swooping in to let Luke have his shot at the Death Star. But there is some back-up on the way for a Red Sox team closing in on baseball’s Evil Empire.

The biggest piece, David Price, is already back. 

Carson Smith, one of two missing right-handers with high-leverage experience, might be one more mound appearance away from a minor league rehab assignment. He threw off a major league mound Wednesday with hitters standing in, the first time he’s done that since Tommy John surgery. But no one took any swings, so he still hasn’t faced live hitting. That might happen Saturday at Fenway Park, when his next scheduled mound outing is.

Smith’s felt his shoulder bark a little as he’s rehabbed his elbow, but seemed very happy after Wednesday’s outing.

"They all felt good,” Smith said of his pitches. “Fastball location was good. I don't know the velocity but everybody that I talked to, players, coaches, the rest of the staff, they all said it was coming out good. Slider felt good, changeup as well, so everything was good.”

Smith’s return should help with workload distribution. Tyler Thornburg is still throwing from out to 90 feet and has yet to make his Red Sox debut. Robbie Ross Jr. isn’t throwing as he recovers from a forearm injury.

“Am I afraid the bullpen will be overused? No, I’m not,” Sox manager John Farrell said Wednesday. “That’ll be dependent on how consistent our rotation goes into ball games and pitches quality innings. That will always be a main contributor to success of a bullpen.”

Enter Brian Johnson, who has been the expected starter in place of Eduardo Rodriguez on Friday and on Wednesday was announced as such. The lefty’s last outing in the big leagues was essentially a dream, a complete-game shutout, and now the question is whether he can give the Sox anything consistent in Rodriguez’s absence.

“If he keeps throwing shutouts it’ll be great,” Farrell said. “Brian comes to us with a little momentum and confidence after the game against Seattle. He’ll be there Friday night.”

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

Strong Grapefruit League debut for Price

David Price's Grapefruit League debut was nearly perfect.

The Red Sox left-hander pitched four scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out five in a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in Fort Myers, Fla.

Price threw 55 pitches, 34 for strikes. He cruised through the first on nine pitches. He allowed the single and walk in the second.  

"It feels good. This is March 15 and I've never been able to have a four-pitch mix on March 15," Price told reporters after his start. "I've never been this far along in spring training even though I've only thrown in one game. I'm excited about that."

The Red Sox open March 29 at Tampa Bay, with Chris Sale likely to start. Price will likely pitch the second game of the season, March 30 at Tropicana Field.